Spotlight on new 2012 Saint Emilion classification


After 12 months of deliberation, Saint Emilion has a new classification (but link to First Warnings of Trouble for the fallout).

Following legal challenges to the previous classification (2006), this new version has worked extensively to ensure that it is legally robust. It has been overseen by the National Institute of Appellations of Origin (INAO) and the French Ministry of Agriculture. The requirements were the same both for classified estates, and those who wished to become classified in this new revision.

The classification of Saint Emilion dates back to 1955, and has been revised at approximately 10-yearly intervals ever since. The full list of the 2012 St Emilion classification sees 82 Saint Emilion properties anointed either Grand Cru Classé or Premier Grand Cru Classé – the highest number since the second classification in 1969 (when there were 84).

The Classification Commission comprised seven wine professionals, all members or former members of the INAO and all from outside the Bordeaux region. The chairman was Mr Robert Tinlot, and with him were Michael Bronzo, Philippe Faure-Brac, Gerard Vinet, Marc Brugnon, Robert Drouhin and Marcel Guigal. Although all highly experienced tasters, they were given further instructions and training specific to Saint Emilion wines and terroir from a professor at Bordeaux University. Chateaux were judged on their terroir, renown, methods of vineyard and cellar work and through a blind tasting of ten vintages (fifteen for Premier Grand Crus).

To become Grand Cru Classé, chateaux had to score at least 14 out of 20 in the blind tastings, while to become Premier Grand Cru Classé, the score had to be at least 16 out of 20. They also had to submit extremely detailed support documents to upheld each area to be examined.  Besides the Classification Commission, the INAO brought in two independent bodies to oversee the process - Qualisud for organising the tasting and Bureau Veritas Certification for ensuring the application process was correctly carried out.

All the points assessed by the certifying bodies, and submitted to the Classification Commission generated scores, which then counted towards a final grade as follows:

For Grand Cru Classés
- Tasting 50% of final score
- Reputation (promotion, distribution, value) – 20% of final score
- Estate and terroirs (land boundaries, uniformity, terroirs) – 20% of final score
- Estate practises (husbandy and wine making) 10% of final score

For Premier Grand Cru Classés
- Tasting 30% of final score
- Reputation 35% of final score
- Estate and terroirs – 30% of final score
- Estate practices 5% of final score

All chateaux which had not achieved a score high enough for classification were advised of their results by letter. They were given two weeks to defend the areas where they had been found weak. After ten months of painstaking work, the Classification Commission was able to prepare the list, which was submitted for approval to the INAO on September 6, 2012,and subsequently accepted.

Among the most significant changes are the promotion of Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie to Premier Grand Cru Classé A. These two estates now join Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc as the highest classified properties in the appellation. This is the first time that the numbers of ‘A’ chateaux has changed since the 1955 ranking.

Four properties were promoted to Premier GrandCru Classé (B): Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, Chateau Larcis Ducasse, LaMondotte and Chateau Valandraud.

Various chateaux are not on the new list because they have merged with other properties, namely Chateau Magdeleine (now part of Chateau Belair-Monange),Chateau Cadet-Piola (now part of Soutard), Chateau Bergat (now in Trottevielle), Chateau Haut-Corbin (now in Grand Corbin) and Chateau Matras (nowin Canon), Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac (now called Chateau La Tour du Pin,which has been partially (1.3ha) integrated into Cheval Blanc).

Two chateaux were promoted directly to Premier Grand Cru Classé (B), without passing first through the step of Grand Cru Classé: Chateau Valandraud(previously AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru) and La Mondotte (previously AOC Saint Emilion).

Of the four which mounted a legal challenge against their demotions in 2006 - Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac(Giraud-Belivier), Chateau Cadet Bon, Chateau Guadet and Chateau de la Marzelle- only La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Belivier) has not been reinstated. Just one other estate lost its Grand Cru Classé status; Chateau Corbin Michotte. The majority of the vines of Chateau La Tour du Pin (formerly the ‘other’ Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac, once owned by Moueix and now LVMH) which were not integrated into Cheval Blanc remain AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru – the owners of Cheval Blanc chose not to apply for classification for the estate, as they had only bought the property in 2006, and did not consider that they had a long enough history of quality vintages to merit an application for classification. Instead they merged the best plot, contingent with Cheval Blanc vines, into their main estate.

There are 16 new Grand Cru Classé chateaux (promoted from Grand Cru).
These are:
Chateau Barde-Haut, Chateau Quinault L’Enclos, Chateau Faugeres, Chateau Peby Faugeres, Chateau Cote de Baleau, Chateau le Chatelet, Chateau Clos de Sarpe, Chateau la Commanderie, Chateau de Ferrand, Chateau La Fleur Morange, Chateau Fombrauge, Chateau de Pressac, Chateau Jean Faure, Chateau Rochebelle, Chateau Sansonnet, Clos la Madeleine.

The Ministry of Agriculture now has to ratify the classification.

Full list of 2012 Classification:

PremiersGrands Crus Classés

Château Angélus (A)

Château Ausone (A)

Château Beauséjour (héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse)

Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot

Château Bélair-Monange

Château Canon

Château Canon la Gaffelière

Château Cheval Blanc (A)

Château Figeac

Clos Fourtet

Château la Gaffelière

Château Larcis Ducasse

La Mondotte

Château Pavie (A)

Château Pavie Macquin

Château Troplong Mondot

Château Trottevieille

Château Valandraud

Grands Crus Classés

Château l’Arrosée

Château Balestard la Tonnelle

Château Barde-Haut

Château Bellefont-Belcier

Château Bellevue

Château Berliquet

Château Cadet-Bon

Château Capdemourlin

Château le Chatelet

Château Chauvin

Château Clos de Sarpe

Château la Clotte

Château la Commanderie

Château Corbin

Château Côte de Baleau

Château la Couspaude

Château Dassault

Château Destieux

Château la Dominique

Château Faugères

Château Faurie de Souchard

Château de Ferrand

Château Fleur Cardinale

Château La Fleur Morange

Château Fombrauge

Château Fonplégade

Château Fonroque

Château Franc Mayne

Château Grand Corbin

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne

Château Grand Mayne

Château les Grandes Murailles

Château Grand-Pontet

Château Guadet

Château Haut-Sarpe

Clos des Jacobins

Couvent des Jacobins

Château Jean Faure

Château Laniote

Château Larmande

Château Laroque

Château Laroze

Clos la Madeleine

Château la Marzelle

Château Monbousquet

Château Moulin du Cadet

Clos de l’Oratoire

Château Pavie Decesse

Château Peby Faugères

Château Petit Faurie de Soutard

Château de Pressac

Château le Prieuré

Château Quinault l’Enclos

Château Ripeau

Château Rochebelle

Château Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie

Clos Saint-Martin

Château Sansonnet

Château la Serre

Château Soutard

Château Tertre Daugay (Quintus)

Château la Tour Figeac

Château Villemaurine

Château Yon-Figeac

For history of the 2006 Classification